Essential Series - 2017 Glam Metal Vol 1

DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
edited February 10 in Essential Series

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ARTICLE: The Essential Series - Glam Metal (Vol 1), by Dtabachn
YEAR: 2017

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

Background

Commonly, public at large as well as critics and writers fail to identify the importance of Glam Metal as a crucial Metal sub-genre.

In the sense that it was the driving force behind the fact that Metal was arguably the dominant genre in popular music around the mid to late 80's. Many people do not realize that 1980's and Glam Metal are synonymous.

Glam Metal's influences range from Traditional 70's Metal (Aerosmith, Kiss, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC), Shock Rock (Alice Cooper and again Kiss), Power Pop (Cheap Trick), 50's Rock And Roll and Rockabilly (Elvis Presley), the First British Invasion (Beatles, Rolling Stones), Glam Rock (The New York Dolls, The Sweet, Slade) and even Proto-Punk (The Amboy Dukes, The Stooges, MC5), and Punk (Sex Pistols, The Clash) to the NWOBHM (the genre that immediately preceded Glam Metal in the timeline).

As a consequence, Glam Metal is a broad term that gathers bands closer to traditional metal (Dokken, W.A.S.P., Skid Row), bluesy sounding ones like Cinderella, others with a punk edge such as Motley Crue and even some closer to heartland rock like Bon Jovi.

Glam Metal's most significant input to the Metal genre was the fun element, the 'feel good' attitude that had been somehow lost in Traditional Metal at that point.

Glam Metal is frequently confused with 70's English Glam Rock. Besides their musical differences, while the latter, image-wise, conveyed some degree of gender innuendo, the former developed a tension, conflict or contradiction between the feminine looks and the bad-boy macho chauvinist attitude.

It's been cleverly said that the only way to out-top the macho attitude that has historically been the trademark of heavy, was to adopt female looks by opposition.

Some albums were pivotal in the development of Glam Metal as a genre. Boston's 1976 debut set the template for the guitar sound, the glossy vocals and the tight production.

Angel's 'Sinful' combined the image with the melodies and it is clear the influence that songs like 'I'll Bring the Whole World to Your Door' and 'Wild and Hot' had on bands like Poison.

Hanoi Rocks' 1981 debut 'Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks', although musically more on the glam-punk, hard-pop and new wave side, is also highly influential particularly regarding the looks.

Quiet Riot's 'Metal Health' reaching the top of the Billboard album chart in 1983 is the fact that massively launched the genre's success.

However, the most influential of all is Van Halen's 1978 debut that introduced the ultimate 80's frontman in David Lee Roth, the guitar hero in Eddie Van Halen, the fully realized sound and the hooks plus the hard edge simultaneously.

The movements alleged place of birth and most iconic location is the Sunset Strip, a stretch of Sunset Boulevard outside Los Angeles city limits and home of famous clubs the likes of Gazzarri's, The Rainbow, The Starwood, Whisky-a-Go-Go, The Troubadour and The Roxy.

Bands are considered as part of the Glam Metal genre based on: a) the music: an 80s metal approach to the guitar playing including solos as a rule, proficient musicianship and production in most cases, prominent and sometimes pop-influenced vocal harmonies, hooks and hard edge simultaneously, drums with heavy reverb, b) looks, c) lyrics about bad-boy behavior, sex, party, booze, drugs, and d) a combination of all the previous.

I can identify at least three different stages in the development of the genre, which reflect generations or waves correspondingly.

1981-1985 is the early age where the movement was taking shape. Motley Crue's 'Too Fast For Love' album is the starting point.

1986-1988 is perhaps the golden age of Glam Metal, with the release of Bon Jovi's 'Slippery When Wet' being the starting landmark and MTV fully embracing and fueling the movement.

Finally, 1989-1991 is the period when the still massive sub-genre standardized its sound and particularly its image.

Glam Metal is often and unfairly labeled using derogatory terms, 'Hair Metal', 'Lite Metal', 'Poodle Metal', '80s Cock Rock', 'Pop Metal', 'Soft Metal' as examples.

It's not either 'L.A. Metal' (or 'Gay L.A. Metal', according to one Dave Mustaine), as heavyweights of the genre the likes of Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Def Leppard, Europe, and Whitesnake have origins that are far from sunny California.

Glam Metal is the preferred term because it is mainly how the genre is known outside the USA. In the end, 'It's Only Rock'N'Roll'.

We are going to mention some crucial albums for the future development of the movement first, and after them the essential ones chosen for this first volume.

The Albums

A - The Crucial

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Motley Crue - 1981 Too Fast For Love

Arguably the first overall Glam Metal album, the music is clearly on the metal side, influenced by Cheap Trick (Tommy Lee's favorite band), Aerosmith and Kiss, coming off like a heavier and updated 80's version of the latter. The punk influences of The Clash and Sex Pistols are noticeable as well.

Under the glittering and debauched surface, Mick Mars was an unsung bluesy metal guitar hero while Tommy Lee turned up as a highly skilled drummer. The first Leathur Records release and the 2002 Motley Records reissue are the ones to get, as 1982's Roy Thomas Baker's-supervised remix lacked the punch and tasty rawness of the original.


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Def Leppard - 1983 Pyromania

A brilliant mix of AC/DC and Queen influences, 'Pyromania' is a perfect blend of the NWOBHM elements that Def Leppard was trying to leave behind around 1983 with pop melodies and vocal harmonies.

Mutt Lange's production reaches its peak here more than on follow-up 'Hysteria', where the studio trickery seemed to have taken over the music.

It's not only the singles but also the album tracks like 'Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)' and 'Billy's Got a Gun' what make this album a landmark and perhaps the band's all time best.


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Bon Jovi - 1986 Slippery When Wet

This is the album that spawned the second wave of Glam Metal, the glory days of the movement. Its massive success set the template for the mid to late 80's albums.

One first single to fuel albums sales, generally a rocker ('You Give Love A Bad Name'), one power ballad ('Wanted Dead Or Alive') and one more successful single, usually an AOR sing-along song or a catchy tune ('Living On A Prayer').

Don't believe the album is style over substance. Besides its current legendary status, this is a consistently strong effort with not so obvious highlights such as the moving rocker 'Raise Your Hands' (remember Mel Brooks' 'Spaceballs'?) and the emotional ballad 'Never Say Goodbye'.

Lastly, the Heartland Rock-Springsteen-New Jersey atmosphere of some musical passages is delectable.


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Whitesnake - 1987 Whitesnake

The big Whitesnake sellout from a heartfelt bluesy hard rock entity to a wasted rock star cliche. Really? Not at all. As much as I love classic Whitesnake, this is their pinnacle.

The album is heavy as maybe no other recording of the era and style is, the old classic reversions top the originals, David Coverdale sings as never before, John Sykes is in prominent top form and filler is nowhere to be found.

Blistering rockers 'Children Of The Night', 'Bad Boys', and the worthy Zepp-influenced hit 'Still Of The Night' along with power ballad 'Is This Love' and the chart topper, MTV favorite re-recording of 1982's 'Here I Go Again' are the standouts.

The album is still a living proof of how a traditional European hard rock band successfully made the crossover to 80's Metal without artistically compromising up to that point in time, visual MTV overexposure aside.

B - The Essential

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Ratt - 1984 Out of the Cellar

The most consistent Ratt effort to date, it is nearly impossible nowadays to picture how influential a song like 'Round And Round' was to the whole Glam Metal scene back in 1984.

Besides a slightly not so strong side B, the album is the perfect vehicle for the tandem of guitar hero Warren DeMartini and driving-force, rhythm guitarist great, late Robbin Crosby while Stephen Pearcy's vocals, an acquired taste to some ears, suit perfectly this early genre's classic.

Ratt's sound exudes some Euro-metal influences as well, particularly Judas Priest.


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Twisted Sister - 1984 Stay Hungry

Having started as a band as far back as 1972, Shock Rock-rooted Twisted Sister is actually a Glam Metal precursor and a truly hard hitting metal band of their time as witnessed by the punk-influenced 'Under The Blade' and 'You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll' albums.

Why choose 'Stay Hungry' then? Because larger than life singles 'We're Not Gonna Take It' and 'I Wanna Rock' are era-defining classics far beyond this genre, but for pop music in general, with the plus of the parent-child relationship insights and the PMRC controversy of the mid 80's. Power ballad 'The Price' is another good reason.


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W.A.S.P. - 1984 W.A.S.P.

Without a doubt a metal band, W.A.S.P.'s background, influences and impact justify its inclusion as an active part and driver of Glam Metal. Blackie Lawless was a member of seminal yet underground bands the likes of The New York Dolls, Sister, London and Circus Circus.

Following the steps of Alice Cooper and Kiss, and taking Shock Rock to an extreme dimension live, this debut is their rawer, most energetic and rounded out effort, fueled by piercing tracks like 'I Wanna Be Somebody', 'L.O.V.E. Machine' and the little ditty that inspired the creation of the PMRC, 'Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)' which had been a non-album single that was properly included in the 1998 reissue of the album.


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Dokken - 1985 Under Lock And Key

Can we picture a 'Glam Metal Big Four'? Initially at least, it would have been Motley Crue, Ratt, W.A.S.P. and Dokken.

With strong, noticeable Euro-Metal influences, Dokken was driven by Don Dokken's natural crystal-clear yet powerful vocals, Jeff Pilson's harmonies, 'Wild' Mick Brown pounding skins; and perhaps the ultimate 80's guitar hero within a band context, George Lynch (aka 'Mr. Scary').

One of the most technically proficient bands of the period. 'Tooth And Nail' was a splendid, heavier affair; however 'Under Lock And Key' is where the band showed its true colors and perfected their very melodic metal style.

Side A of the old trusty vinyl is an almost perfect showcase, and 'In My Dreams' especially is one of the most accomplished definitions of melodic metal in my book.


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Europe - 1986 The Final Countdown

The title track is pure air-keyboard heaven perfection just as Van Halen's 'Jump' was in 1984. The album follows the template of one massive single, a power ballad and a rocker hit through the aforementioned title track, 'Carrie' and 'Rock The Night', respectively.

Many people, blinded by the big hits, tend to overlook the traditional 70's European Metal influence of Thin Lizzy and UFO captured in songs like 'Ninja' or 'On The Loose' as examples.

A very strong album and another European band that carried out a highly successful transition to the genre. This and Bon Jovi's same-year release are 1986's definition.


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Cinderella - 1986 Night Songs

Cinderella was clearly on the bluesy side of the genre and this debut, their most important album for the movement, already hinted at the direction the band would take in their sophomore effort. Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Aerosmith and Lynyrd Skynyrd influences are given the 80's metal treatment with flying colors.

Discovered and initially helped by Jon Bon Jovi, this is their most metal album, packed with quality rockers besides the singles, and their crowning achievement if you are not too keen on Cinderella's more blues-oriented subsequent efforts.


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Poison - 1988 Open Up And Say.. Ahh!

Frequently bashed for fully embracing the looks and many of the movement's cliches, Poison's sophomore credentials are the unbelievable catchy rocker 'Nothin' But A Good Time', the acoustic Billboard-chart-topper power ballad 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn' and the spot on AOR of 'Fallen Angel'.

Add Tom Werman's superb production and you have a winner that sold like hot cakes and, most important, represents one of the defining moments of the era. Firmly rooted in Aerosmith and Kiss, C.C. DeVille was actually the 80's incarnation of Ace Frehley plus a little bit of a punk attitude, and his tasty licks give the album its undeniable charm.


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Skid Row - 1989 Skid Row

We're now into the third, last wave of Glam Metal. And Skid Row had the weapons to stand out: a terrific singer (Bach), a heavier sound and a grittier attitude than your average band, a metal guitarist (Sabo) and a blues one (Hill) plus a punk-oriented member (Bolan).

The hit singles are well known and among them, 'I Remember You' is the ultimate power ballad. Period. However, it's in the deep tracks where this late 80's heavier version of American giants Kiss and Aerosmith shine with their own light.

It's nearly impossible not to be caught up in 'Can't Stand The Heartache's addictive chorus, the heavy-funk of 'Here I Am' or the blazing opener 'Big Guns'.


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Warrant - 1989 Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich

Warrant and Winger epitomize late 80's Glam Metal. Much like Poison, Warrant was maligned because of the looks and the MTV overexposure.

Again, the album follows that template of power ballads and uptempo pop numbers disguised in fat guitars. But try to beat the playlist of 'Down Boys', 'Sometimes She Cries', 'Big Talk' and 'Heaven' in that order.

There's no denying that the late Jani Lane was a gifted songwriter, to the extreme of succumbing to his label's pressure and providing a hit single like the infamous 'Cherry Pie' in less than a sigh for the band's sophomore.


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Firehouse - 1990 Firehouse

The last heavyweight of the era to rear its head, Firehouse has always been classy with regards to songwriting, singing and playing; while the looks were a secondary affair.

They displayed an innate talent for writing tender power ballads that followed a certain formula, and 'Love Of A Lifetime' is the first of several overtime.

A band that never abandoned their melodic style in favor of then-current trends, with a fantastic singer and a tasteful guitarist on board; in an album that deserves to be listened in its entirety given the quality of melodic hard rock to be found here.

In Summary

In a world of strong opinions weakly held, let's not forget Glam Metal (and 80's metal in general) was a product of its time with all the good and the bad, and the last age of creativity to a certain extent. From the 90's onwards it seems like music is mostly recycling.

I don't share the opinion that the release of Nirvana's 1991 album 'Nevermind' killed Glam Metal, or that even grunge as a movement did. It's more a case of formula-exhaustion and lack of evolution, changing social, political and economic times.

As well as changing preferences and musical tastes; and the inner nature of the music industry including the MTV (today extinct as we knew it in the 80's) that devours its artists after reproducing and milking them until the last drop.

What happened to Glam Metal after a decade also happened to grunge afterwards, albeit in substantially less time.

Just for fun, let's briefly list some well known bands or artists that, at least only image-wise or for a certain period, turned Glam Metal: Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth, Judas Priest, Kiss, Scorpions, Dio, Saxon, Michael Bolton, Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi, Alice Cooper, Cher, Pat Boone, Gary Moore, TSOL.

Lastly, if I had to choose one single album that summarizes all about Glam Metal, it would be Vinnie Vincent's first solo recording. Maybe not the best, for sure not the worst; but an unforgettable compilation of pop melodies and loud guitars.

Plus all kinds of excesses like shredding everywhere, extreme looks and unbelievable (in-tune) high pitched vocals courtesy of the great Robert Fleischman, thundering drumming and quality songwriting, tight musicianship and hooks all over the place.

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